Every Friday, the Friday Five will rank something in the world of college football -- anything and everything from the logical to the illogical. This week, we rank the five players offering the best Heisman value right now.
Trying to figure out who is going to win the Heisman Trophy in February is a fool’s errand. Luckily for you, I’m just the fool to try.
It isn’t my fault, anyway. Earlier this week, Bovada, putting the idea into the global consciousness.
For real, though, I’m not actually going to try to guess who will win the Heisman next season. It’s nearly impossible. The only thing we know about the future Heisman winner in February is that the favorite rarely wins, and the player who won last year isn’t going to win. Right off the bat, that eliminates USC’s Sam Darnold (this year’s favorite) and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
OK, they’re gone.
So the next thing we must remember is that, when it comes to the Heisman, if you aren’t a quarterback or a running back, the odds are very much stacked against you. Now, having said that, we’ve seen in recent years a trend in which voters are more likely to consider wide receivers and defensive players. It’s possible that in the near future -- and possibly even in 2017 -- we’ll see a drastic change in how the Heisman is viewed by the voting populace (which, full disclosure, I am a member of). Until we see it in action, however, it doesn’t make sense to believe this will be the year.
Which means if you aren’t a running back or a quarterback, you aren’t going to be on this list. We’re looking for value here. Not so much “this guy will win” as much as “this guy could win, and that’s a nice payday if he does.”
So without further ado, here are the five best value plays for the 2017 Heisman Trophy if you were to place a wager.
5. Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State (14/1 odds): While we only consider quarterbacks and running backs when it comes to figuring out the Heisman, there are other things we need to keep in mind when looking for a value bet. First of all, there aren’t many Heisman winners who played on 6-6 teams. Being a good player on a winning team is a big boost because it keeps you in the spotlight as often as possible.
As the quarterback for Florida State, Francois will be playing in a lot of big games. In the regular season alone, the Noles will play Alabama, Miami, Louisville, Clemson and Florida. Those are spotlight games. Should Francois play well in them, and Florida State wins enough of them, you know he’s going to get Heisman hype. Plus there’s a precedent here, as Francois wouldn’t be the first Florida State quarterback to win a Heisman under Jimbo Fisher.
4. Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State (14/1): While Ohio State and Michigan will once again be the favorites in the Big Ten, as we saw last year, that doesn’t mean Penn State can’t win the conference. McSorley was a big reason why the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten last year and got to the Rose Bowl. Now he’ll enter the 2017 season with a lot more people aware of who he is, and if he has a repeat performance, he’s going to get that Heisman hype.
My biggest concern with McSorley is the fact he’s not the only Heisman possibility on his own offense. He’ll share the spotlight with running back Saquon Barkley, and that’s why I can’t put McSorley higher than fourth. As for why I put McSorley here instead of Barkley, it’s only because McSorley would pay off more, and quarterbacks win a lot more often than running backs these days. It has nothing to do with Barkley as a player because I loved Saquon Barkley before it was cool.
3. Josh Rosen QB, UCLA (14/1): I was actually hoping Rosen would receive longer odds than this, but at 14-to-1, I still like the value here. The hope was that coming off a down season in which he was hurt, people might forget the promise that Rosen showed during his freshman season, as well as his five-star pedigree. I also thought that with Sam Darnold on the other side of town, Rosen would be overlooked even more.
But, again, this is still excellent value.
If he’s healthy, Rosen is going to put up fantastic numbers. He’s going to be the focal point of UCLA’s offense, and he’s going to receive plenty of hype despite UCLA’s record simply because he’ll be touted as a possible No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. That being said, if UCLA wins some games and competes with USC in the Pac-12 South, that will help his case too. Can you imagine how great it will be if both USC and UCLA are atop the division when they meet at The Coliseum on Nov. 18? That game could crown your Heisman winner.
2. Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama (9/1): While the odds don’t offer as big a payday on Scarbrough as they do the quarterbacks I’ve listed so far, there’s still plenty of reasons to like him as a pick. First of all, last we saw Bo, he was playing great in both Alabama’s loss to Clemson in the title game as well as its win over Washington in the semis. Second, he plays for Alabama. Playing for Alabama is a great way to make sure people are paying attention to you, and if you’re playing well for Alabama, that’s even better.
Finally, recent history would suggest that the running back at Alabama has a good shot at winning the Heisman if he has a strong season.
The concern with Scarbrough is his health. After only playing in seven games in 2015, Scarbrough missed two games last season as well. When he was on the field, his touches were limited with the idea of making sure he could stay on the field.
If Alabama loosens the leash a bit in 2017, and he can stay on the field, Bo could be in for a monster season.
1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (13/2): It just makes too much sense to have Baker here. I wish the odds offered more value, but the truth is I think they’re really fair, and they could definitely pay off. I mean, Baker was a Heisman finalist last year, and that was while splitting the vote with his teammate Dede Westbrook. Westbrook is gone now, but Mayfield still has the pedigree, and will still be playing in an offense perfectly suited for his skills.
Over the last two seasons, Mayfield has thrown for 7,665 yards with 76 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions. He’s also been one of the most efficient passers in the country, finishing first nationally last season after finishing in third in 2015. And while he’s not somebody you’d consider to be a true dual-threat, he’s can run when he needs to and has scored an additional 13 touchdowns with his legs.
The biggest question mark I have with Mayfield -- assuming full health -- will be how good Oklahoma is, and how good the Big 12 is. Oklahoma was a really good team last year, but it was overlooked a bit due to some early season losses, and the Big 12 just being down in general. It’s a significant hurdle to overcome, but should Mayfield have another spectacular season, and Oklahoma be in line for a playoff berth, he’s going to be in New York for the Heisman ceremony again in December.